Two staff at children's home face abuse charges

Two workers at a children's home were charged with ill-treating youngsters under their care yesterday.

Muhammad Abdul Gani, 26, a Singaporean, was a welfare officer and religious teacher at the Pertapis Children's Home in Kovan Road, while Filipina Joanne Joy Coloma Dadiz, 29, worked there as a social service assistant.

Both have been transferred elsewhere within the organisation.

Muhammad faces 10 charges of abusing eight children - three girls and five boys aged between four and 11 - between 2012 and January last year.

Dadiz faces one charge of child abuse involving a different girl.

The alleged offences came to light last year, when the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) lodged a police report after receiving a tip-off about children in the home receiving inappropriate physical punishment from certain workers.

The home aims to provide children aged between four and 12 with a safe environment under the Children and Young Persons Act.

Children may be referred to the home by the Youth Court, Family Service Centres, MSF or other social service agencies.

Muhammad, represented by lawyer Abdul Jalil Muhammad Tahir, allegedly grabbed a seven-year-old boy's head from below his ears and lifted him off the ground.

He is said to have put a four-year-old boy inside a cupboard, an act likely to cause him emotional injury.

On another occasion, he allegedly grabbed the same boy by the head and lifted him off the ground.

He is also accused of using a wooden cane to hit the palms of three boys and a girl, aged between eight and 10.

In the case of an 11-year-old girl, Muhammad allegedly caused her unnecessary pain by pushing his hand into her mouth, causing the back of her head to hit a cupboard.

He allegedly abused a nine-year-old girl twice. Some time in 2012, he allegedly kicked a chair she was on, causing her to fall off. Then in January 2012, he is accused of slapping her in the face.

Dadiz, who intends to get a lawyer, claimed trial to allegedly sitting on the back of an 11-year-old girl for about three minutes as she was lying face down, an act likely to endanger her safety, some time in December 2013.

Muhammad and Dadiz are out on bail of $20,000 and $10,000 respectively. Their passports have been impounded.

As a condition of their bail, District Judge Eddy Tham told them not to have any contact with the victims or their family members in any way.

Pertapis said in a statement yesterday that an incident reported on Feb 14 last year clearly identified areas for improvement in its operations.

It added: "The home took immediate action in identifying any such gap, oversight and training, and has closely worked with all authorities in the investigation at every level."

It has hired a divisional manager to oversee and ensure the remedial measures are in place.

In a separate statement, MSF said that it will continue to conduct checks to ensure standards are adhered to at Pertapis and other children's homes.

If convicted, the pair could be fined up to $4,000 and/or jailed up to four years on each charge.

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